Molto Sangue: Behind-The-Scenes Photos From Italian Horror & Exploitation Cinema (NSFW)

Posted in Crazy Shit, Movies, My Heroes, Nothing That Should Concern You, Uncategorized on January 21, 2015 by Robert Morgan

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Greetings, my fellow mutants and maniacs. If you’re like me you hear voices in your head all the time telling you to dress stray dogs up as famous comedy teams of the silver screen and write love letters to the Hamburglar. Also, you love all, most, or some of the great genre films to emerge from Italy over the past six decades. Bertolucci, De Sica, Fellini? Nice guys I’m sure, and capable of making fine films that more often than not lull me safely into the magical land of Oedipal dreams. Just kidding….or am I? When I think of the best the Italian cinema has to offer I think of fountains of brightened gore, offensive gender politics, gunshots that rip flesh from bone, morally dubious heroes, and children with five o’clock shadow. The great shit.

Submitted for your approval are fourteen behind-the-scenes photos from some of the best Italian horror, crime, sci-fi, and western films ever made.

Let’s start off with a trio of pics from the making of Lucio Fulci‘s supernatural zombie masterpiece The Beyond. Here we have Cinzia Monreale, who played the mysterious blind woman Emily (under the Anglicized pseudonym “Sarah Keller”), taking a cigarette break while the German Shepherd who played her on-screen guide dog Dickie minds his own business. Still, better watch that dog closely.

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In this pic Fulci and his crew set up a shot on the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in southern Louisiana, the world’s longest bridge to run continuously over water.

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Here’s a shot of Fulci and company filming a scene in New Orleans’ French Quarter.

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Ruggero Deodato‘s classic gut-muncher Cannibal Holocaust contains some of the most unpleasant scenes ever put to film. One featured a woman from a tribe of Amazonian primitives being raped with a sharpened rock as punishment for adultery and then murdered. It’s pretty rough to watch, but judging by this picture it couldn’t have been too difficult to film (at least for the crew – the actress forced to spend her screen time laying in mud, maybe not so much).

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Memorably released to U.S. drive-in and grindhouse theaters under the title Make Them Die Slowly, Cannibal Ferox was director Umberto Lenzi‘s (Nightmare City) attempt to capitalize, and perhaps improve upon, the international success of Deodato’s groundbreaking Holocaust. It has more than its share of gruesome set-pieces, some of which were a source of contention between Lenzi and male lead Giovanni Lombardo Radice. At least in this pic the two collaborators were in good spirits during filming. Radice would eventually disown his part in Ferox though he did reunite with Lenzi to record an audio commentary for the laserdisc and DVD releases of the film more than fifteen years after it was originally released.

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The lovely Zora Kerova, a veteran of Italian exploitation cinema with credits including Joe D’Amato’s Anthropophagus (released in the U.S. as The Grim Reaper) and Fulci’s The New York Ripper, suffered the most agonizing death scene of all the characters in Ferox. In this respect Deodato’s film couldn’t come close to topping what Ferox appallingly wrought. Here Kerova gets prepared for her big scene.

Zora Kerova - Cannibal Ferox, 1981.

A post on Italian horror and exploitation is naked without at least one mention of Dario Argento. In this shot the legendary lunatic of garlic-flavored gory giallos sets up one of the bravura death scenes in his colorful chiller classic Suspiria.

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Fernando Di Leo, the master of the brutal Italian crime epic, directs Woody Strode for a scene in The Italian Connection.

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Ruggero Deodato returns, this time posing with modern horror icon Michael Berryman on the set of his mainstreamed 1985 jungle cannibal actioner Cut and Run.

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Just for fun here’s one of the more gruesome moments in the uncut Cut.

If you look closely you can see the quick and painful death of what remained of Willie Aames‘ soul. And thus that day was born….Bibleman!

Mario Bava directs the eternally gorgeous Barbara Steele in his 1960 breakthrough Gothic chiller Black Sunday.

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Depending on the day and the mood I’m in, I tend to prefer Luigi Cozzi‘s fast, cheap, and childishly offbeat Star Wars rip-off Star Crash to the real deal. If you’ve never seen it I welcome you to check out my EuroCultAV article The Ten Reasons Why Luigi Cozzi’s Star Crash Is Infinitely Better Than The Original Star Wars and then order either the top shelf Blu-ray or DVD editions currently available from Shout! Factory.

For your perusing pleasure I present three behind-the-scenes stills from the making of Star Crash. In the first Cozzi gives direction to stars Marjoe Gortner, Caroline Munro, and Judd Hamilton.

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Munro (far right in here barely there heroine’s costume) prepares to film a first act action scene.

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Finally we have a shot of Cozzi on set with character acting demigod Joe Spinell, cast wisely as the film’s over-the-top camp villain Zarth Arn.

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To close things out we have a picture taken during the production of a film that can’t exactly be classified as exploitation but was made by a master of Italian cinema and deserves a bit more attention. Sergio Leone (center) commiserates with stars Rod Steiger (left) and James Coburn (right) on the set of his final spaghetti western, 1971’s Duck, You Sucker (a.k.a. A Fistful of Dynamite). Leone’s long-maligned farewell to the genre he helped revive and redefine for countless generations of western lovers was recently released on Blu-ray. I highly recommend that disc.

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Addio per ora, cari amici.

UPDATED: Astron-6’s BIO-COP Trailer In Hungarian (And English Too, If You’re Into That Weirdo Shit)

Posted in Crazy Shit, Hilarity, Movies, My Heroes, Nothing That Should Concern You, Videos with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2014 by Robert Morgan

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Astron-6, the Canadian filmmaking group responsible for some of the craziest and goriest homages to exploitation cinema of the 70’s and 80’s in recent memory, never fail to impress me. Except for that time they made Manborg, a high-spirited but annoyingly brief pastiche of indie sci-fi schlock classics like Eliminators and 1990: The Bronx Warriors among many others. Though I was amazed that they made that flick for less than the price of a sensible used car originally purchased in 1992 it failed to be anything close to the sum of its parts. I still recommend it as a decent slice of self-aware genre cheese.

The best part of Manborg came once the end credits concluded rolling and it’s a fake trailer for a much better feature that remains frustratingly unmade: Bio-Cop. In the span of six glorious minutes we get a brilliant short film that mashes together every awesome action, sci-fi, and horror classic of the VHS era’s better days but with the kind of diabolical twist Astron-6 is known for springing on their unprepared audiences.

What has really endured Astron-6’s creative aesthetic to me is their devotion to recreating the experience of watching one of their movies like Manborg or the insanely fun Father’s Day on home video or on cable late at night. As much as I love 2007’s Grindhouse I always thought that Astron-6’s movies and Jason Eisener’s fantastic Hobo with a Shotgun were more faithful in treating audiences to an authentic night at the local drive-in theater. Their movies are true exploitation flicks because they’re made with extremely tight budgets, grand imaginations, and an honest and infallible love for the art of creating memorable celluloid sleaze.

Bio-Cop will be familiar to anyone who ever took a trip to their neighborhood Mom & Pop video shop on a slow Friday evening and took home a stack of the movies that had the bloodiest and most lurid box art (which is how a lot of seriously awful flicks got noticed in the first place), then hit the 7-11 on the way home for a few cases of cheap beer and a few bags of Combos. It’s like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup but only if it was a Maniac Cop cup with a rich filling of Street Trash and The Incredible Melting Man. To talk about what this trailer contains would be to spoil the riches that await you once you click the play button.

Finding a good quality copy of the Bio-Cop trailer online has been a pain in the ass that not even marriage could equate, but recently I found one on YouTube….in Hungarian.

I’ve also included the trailer in English if you must absolutely insist on understanding the dialogue. The quality of this video is a few step downs visually from the Hungarian language version due to the uploader recording it straight off of the television screen.

UPDATED! Here’s a much better version of the trailer in English.

“The One That Goes All the Way!” CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, My First Video Review

Posted in Crazy Shit, Movies, Music, My Heroes, Nothing That Should Concern You, Video Reviews, Videos on July 3, 2014 by Robert Morgan

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Because doing video reviews seems to be the in thing these days I have decided to get in the game personally, and to start things off I have selected the Italian gorehound exploitation masterpiece Cannibal Holocaust.

Apologies for the unpolished look, grotesque length, and my occasional off-topic ramblings. I promise you these will get better the more I do them. Hope you enjoy this, and thanks for your support!

The Ballad of Cable Television: Sam Peckinpah, Music Video Director

Posted in Crazy Shit, Music, My Heroes, Nothing That Should Concern You, Videos on April 5, 2014 by Robert Morgan

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The last time the legendary Sam Peckinpah – maker of many classic westerns and contemporary crime dramas that all shared a penchant for shocking violence and tragic underlying themes of men out of their time running out of time – took his place behind the camera it wasn’t to orchestrate another visionary display of sweaty, balletic brutality.

During the final months of 1984 the man unreasonably (yet somehow justifiably) granted the nickname “Bloody Sam” was hired by Charisma Records and British humorist, television personality, and producer Martin Lewis to direct music videos showcasing a duo of songs by Julian Lennon that would be aired on MTV at the time when the cable channel that would one day subject the world to the horrors of Carson Daly, Pauly Shore, Jesse Camp, Jersey Shore, and Teen Mom was barely three years old.

“I didn’t want one of these young whiz-kids out of film school, I didn’t want a slick music-video director,” Lewis said of hiring the volatile director. “I wanted to find somebody who would bring something to it, I didn’t know what, but it had to be some texture, some perspective.” Prior to approaching Peckinpah for the assignment Lewis plead his case to other filmmakers like Alan Rudolph (Trouble in Mind) and Robert Altman (Nashville), but the idea of hiring Peckinpah was put forth by Lewis’ friend Dennis Delrogh, a film critic for L.A. Weekly.

Lewis was hesitant to the idea at first: “Are you kidding me? I can just imagine what he’d do, open the film with a slow-motion recreation of John Lennon’s murder.” Delrogh persisted in convincing the producer that he was allowing the director’s infamous reputation to cloud his judgement. Peckinpah’s melancholic 1970 western The Ballad of Cable Hogue had been one of Lewis’ favorite films, and it was a personal favorite of the director’s as well.

Peckinpah had begun his career in television in the late 1950’s writing and directing episodes of shows like The Rifleman, The Dick Powell Theater, and his own creation The Westerner. One of his most critically-acclaimed efforts as a director was an episode of ABC Stage 67 entitled “Noon Wine” that aired on November 23, 1966 and starred Jason Robards and Olivia de Havilland. Peckinpah’s last work for TV prior to directing the Lennon videos was a February 1967 episode of Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theater. By that time his big screen filmmaking ambitions that had nearly been permanently decimated by the chaotic production of Major Dundee were revitalized by The Wild Bunch and for the next 17 years he would work strictly in cinema.

The Lennon video idea was originated as a prospective documentary designed to help the musician promote his debut album Valotte. As initially conceived, Peckinpah’s cameras would follow the Beatle spawn through rehearsals, recording sessions, and later, concerts. Lennon balked at being filmed performing before a live audience, so the documentary idea was scuttled and the dual music video idea started taking shape. Lewis wanted the videos to be visually low-key, just Lennon being filmed in the recording studio. They would be filmed over a three-day period in a small studio in upstate New York.

The songs being immortalized in MTV-acceptable video form were “Valotte” and “Too Late for Goodbyes”. Peckinpah was paid $10,000 for the job. At this point in the mercurial filmmaker’s brilliant but troubled career it was a king’s ransom compared to the wooden nickles Hollywood was offering him for projects that never came to pass. Peckinpah hadn’t made a film worthy of his celebrated reputation since 1974’s Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, and that one had been torn to shred by most critics and ignored by moviegoers. Forgettable follow-ups like The Killer Elite, Convoy, and his final film The Osterman Weekend offered precious few glimpses of the greatness in Peckinpah’s finest films that had been slowly eroded by a self-destructive dependency on alcohol and cocaine.

Leading crews of hundreds through blistering hot conditions in Mexico on his various film shoots and matching wits with the most duplicitous studio executives Hollywood could vomit up didn’t make Peckinpah as nervous as the thought of having to work under such restrictive conditions for little money. He was encouraged to give the videos every remaining ounce of his creative energy by film editor Lou Lombardo, a close friend and frequent collaborator. Lewis didn’t have to concern himself with the potential nightmare of dealing with the unpleasant side of Peckinpah many have had the good misfortune of experiencing in the past; his chosen director worked diligently on the video shoot for all three days, even going all the way to 3 a.m. on the final day of filming.

The man who brought scenes of slow-motion death and devastation to unsuspecting American audiences in the late 1960’s was surprisingly reserved in his approach to the youthful format of the music video. That didn’t stop him from energizing the shoot with some helpful ideas on the fly. In David Weddle’s 1994 biography of Peckinpah, If They Move….Kill ‘Em!, Lewis remembered observing Peckinpah’s spontaneous creative up close:

“When we were shooting ‘Too Late for Goodbyes’ Sam found a doorway behind the band at the back of the stage that he thought would be interesting. He had the door removed, had a light put behind it, like heavenly light, bright. He had Moses Pendleton, an excellent modern dancer and close friend of Julian’s, get in the doorway. He did a whole series of short shots, which in editing he interspersed in the video, of Moses dancing in and out of the doorway. Moses did his own moves, with Sam making suggestions: ‘Can you do something that’s funny?’ ‘Can you do something that’s sad?’ It was a combination of mime and dancing. Then Sam shot Julian reacting off of him, which brought Julian to life.”

Both videos had been shot on 35mm film and transferred to videotape, allowing Peckinpah to make use of advanced computerized editing equipment that was beginning to become the industry norm, but for the first time. Experimenting with new technology reinvigorated him even more and he managed to edit the videos in three days. Though the Phil Ramone-produced album Valotte wasn’t a hit with the critics it did very well with record store consumers, peaking at #17 on the Billboard 200 and eventually going platinum. Sales were helped immeasurably by the fleeting popularity of the singles and Peckinpah’s videos: “Valotte” peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, but “Too Late for Goodbyes” made it to the #5 spot and became the most successful single of Lennon’s career.

The only real critical praise given to Valotte was reserved for the videos, with the young Lennon and his veteran director receiving the lion’s share of accolades. Lennon was nominated for Best New Video Artist at the second MTV Video Music Awards ceremony on September 13, 1985 (Eddie Murphy hosted). As a bittersweet ending to this unusual creative partnership he was not only denied the award, but the iconic wild man of the cinematic West who made them didn’t even live to see him receive the nomination: Peckinpah passed away from heart failure at the age of 59 on December 28, 1984 – about two months after filming and finishing the videos. They weren’t the final masterpiece many of the director’s fans felt he still had in him, but at least he was able to pass from this world having partially rebuilt his damaged reputation and proven to the world that even though his body was dying there was nothing that could kill Sam Peckinpah’s love of pure filmmaking.

MANIAC: Finally, a Motion Picture That Knows What Women Want

Posted in Crazy Shit, Movies, My Heroes, Nothing That Should Concern You, Videos on March 29, 2014 by Robert Morgan

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Maniac is more than a horror movie; it’s a litmus test. If you can watch this film from start to finish without being offended and morally violated, then you can handle pretty much anything shy of snuff films. Maniac is the next level. If this movie bothers you, best go back to the kiddies’ table young’un. More than that, it’s a tour-de-force for the three primary creative talents involved in the film:

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William Lustig, the director. Although the New York-based filmmaker and current overlord of Blue Undergound, who started out his career making porno flicks, went on to make more cult classics such as Vigilante and Maniac Cop (penned by the great Larry Cohen), he could never top his cinematic breakthrough. For Maniac perennial 42nd Street grind house denizen Lustig transports us head-on into the pre-Disney, Giuliani-sanitized mean streets of the Big Apple, to the cold beaches, autumnal parks, adult theaters, and seedy motels where hookers take their clients for a quick fuck. Lustig even cameos as a motel clerk.

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Tom Savini, the wildman master of horror special effects. Hired on the strength of his previous work on Dawn of the Dead and Friday the 13th to create the bloody murder set-pieces on Lustig’s slasher opus, Savini brings his devious imagination, fused with the gruesome sights he witnessed while serving in Vietnam, and births one of his true effects masterworks. Gory scalpings, stabbings, decapitations, and a spectacularly messy shotgun killing are all the order of the day when Savini is wisely permitted to indulge himself. A fine example of why modern horror would not be what it is today without the great Tom Savini.

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If you can stare at this picture for five seconds without crying you deserve the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Joe Spinell, the legendary character actor who has loaned his unique presence to such top Hollywood films as The Godfather and Rocky finally gets his chance to shine in a rare leading role. Since Maniac focuses primarily on his character, the titular maniac Frank Zito, so Spinell is given free reign to own the movie whenever he’s on screen. Pudgy, sweaty, wild-eyed, balding Frank is truly a loathsome creature but as interpreted by an untethered Spinell he is not entirely unsympathetic, particularly when he is given a chance at a normal relationship with pretty photographer Anna (Caroline Munro of Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter and Star Crash fame). The story gives us hints of Frank’s traumatic childhood making it clear as a boy he was a victim of abuse at the hands of his mother and Spinell plays this dichotomy masterfully: the monster who is compelled to murder women every night (especially when they remind him of dear ol’ Mum) and the man who wants to live the life of an average Joe and have it all. Whatever complexities are to be in Frank Zito are only there because of Spinell’s stellar performance.

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Don’t get me wrong, Maniac is hardly a fun movie. The violence is unpleasant and mostly aimed at women (though the goriest death scene is reserved for a member of the male persuasion). It’s a tough movie to watch the first time you see it. Lustig never shies away from the gory details and the whole movie is based around the killer himself. This is not your average slasher horror. Far from it, Maniac takes us on a relentless ride-along with a nightmare of a human being and we’re never the same again.

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The brooding synthesizer score by frequent Lustig collaborator Jay Chattaway adds immeasurably to the proceedings. The movie also tends to be uneven acting-wise. With the exception of Munro’s Anna none of the other female characters ever develop beyond trophies for Zito’s deranged collection (you’ll see). Even Munro doesn’t come into the story until nearly an hour has passed. There is no standard Final Girl in this flick because Maniac is Frank’s sordid story all the way until the very end, which is completely unexpected. Only the final shot seems pretty stupid since it doesn’t make any sense. What the fuck though; you have to take the bad with the good.

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In the horror sub-genre of psycho slasher movies Maniac doesn’t fit in with the Friday the 13th‘s and Halloween‘s. Instead it belongs, albeit uneasily, with movies like Peeping Tom and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. It’s not easy to ask an audience looking for a cheap thrill to spend ninety minutes in the company of a psychopath. William Lustig, Tom Savini, and Joe Spinell did, laying their careers and asses on the line in the process. It paid off. Not only was Maniac a smashing success in 1980 (the year we first met the Voorhees) but despite scathing reviews and understandable objections from women’s groups concerned over it’s violent content the movie is widely regarded today as a classic of modern horror.

Maniac is unique among horror films. Wherever your tastes reside it cannot be ignored. Proceed with caution, and ignore the stylish but empty remake while you’re at it.

The film is currently available on Blu-ray and DVD from Blue Underground.